Clarksville, Ark. --- Several years ago, when Clayton Guiltner and his parents' car broke down on I-40, an employee from Ozarks' financial aid office stopped to lend a hand. Through that chance meeting, Guiltner learned about the university's theatre program, and decided to enroll.
“I remember my first encounter with Dr. Farmer, the day I interviewed with him as a potential student,” Guiltner said. “Coming out of a high school drama program that was primarily student-led, I was ready to be challenged. I was ready to learn how to produce professional theatre. I remember asking, ‘Can you teach me how to act professionally?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ It was not until years later that I would realize that his ‘yes’ would involve so much more than him just teaching me to act professionally. He not only taught me how to be a professional in every aspect of theatre, but also instilled valuable life skills that have made me who I am today.”
Clayton Guiltner ’95, was recently hired as Assistant Professor of Theater in Acting and Directing.
Now Guiltner has come full circle – the student who discovered Ozarks’ theatre program by accident went on to graduate from Ozarks with a B.A. in Theatre, and is now passing on what he learned to a new generation of theatre students in his new job as Assistant Professor of Theatre in Acting and Directing at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. “I am excited about my new position at SAU,” Guiltner says, “and I am honored to be carrying on the knowledge imparted to me by Dr. Farmer and the faculty at U of O.”
The path from student to teacher has been full of challenges and adventure. “Immediately after graduation I began traveling nationally with a drama troupe as director and actor,” Guiltner says. “After several years on the road I finally settled down and took a job as a director for a video production company in Orlando, Florida.”
He then went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership, a degree which combined with his directing background, has served him very well. “It was just three years ago that I returned to grad school at The University of Oklahoma, where I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Directing,” he says. “Over the years I have served as an acting coach and director in a variety of educational and professional theatre venues,” Guiltner says. “Some of my credits include directing original plays in New York City as well as numerous community theatre and university productions, including ‘The Trial,’ ‘Steel Magnolias,’ ‘The Music Man’ and ‘The Runner Stumbles.’ Earlier this year, I attended The Actor’s Studio in Hollywood as a guest of Director/Instructor Lou Antonio.”
Guiltner’s work did not go unnoticed. In 2009 he won the Richard Matthews Award for Director of the Year, and in 2010 the Rupel J. Jones Award for Excellence In Directing. He recently accepted the position of Production Editor for the yearly VASTA theatre journal publication. VASTA (the Voice And Speech Trainers Association) promotes vocal performance work in theatre and is an international organization.
“After having been at Ozarks and looking back over my experiences there, I can see so many benefits of receiving my degree from U of O,” Guiltner said. “First, the size of the theatre program allowed for more individualized attention for me as a young artist. I was encouraged to explore all aspects of theatre and serve in a variety of positions including acting, design, management, and tech crews. This allowed me to gain a strong foundation in many disciplines of theatre, making me a well-rounded director and teacher. I don’t feel that I merely took the required classes in theatre, but was able to practice in-depth, hands on experience in production which has contributed to my ability to lead, direct, and teach with confidence. Each day, whether I am directing a play or instructing in the classroom, I draw upon the base of knowledge I acquired while studying theatre at U of O.
“Second, I left U of O with a strong theatrical vocabulary that has enabled me to communicate and ‘hold my own’ with theatre practitioners that I have encountered over the years. I learned valuable industry standards at U of O and am grateful to my professors for equipping me to survive in an extremely competitive industry. In addition, Dr. Farmer’s ability to instill in me time management skills and focused discipline as an artist, has made me a viable contender in the marketplace.
“Finally, it was at U of O that I learned how to direct. Dr. Farmer has one of the most effective directing styles I have ever encountered. It is a directing style I have modeled my own techniques after and am now teaching the next generation to do the same. He challenges everyone on his team to aim for quality and accuracy in storytelling. He taught me how to communicate with actors and designers. He taught me about blocking, script analysis, and how to run efficient rehearsals. I have enjoyed many successful productions over the years because of what I learned about directing from Dr. Farmer."